Independence and Loneliness

adulthood is like looking both waysLately I have run into a few singles who make it perfectly clear fairly quickly why they remain single into their 50s and 60s. To put it bluntly, they have no intention of ever compromising on anything. They want their world to be their way. Period.

This reminds me of myself twenty or thirty years ago. In fact my first five years of counseling were tangentially focused on this exact issue. Back then I was very focused on how different I was from everyone else. My independence was all that mattered to me. But with some excellent counseling I eventually discovered the pain behind my own independent spirit. I didn’t trust anyone. I tried once putting all of my eggs into that basket, and they all got crushed. I wasn’t trying that again, that’s for sure!

I can still remember the exact moment when it hit me square in the face, my future looked very lonely if I insisted on staying with that attitude. Did I really want to be alone forever? Was I willing to give up a little bit of my independence and my need for things to be my way all the time, in order to let other loving souls back into my life?

It wasn’t until my life really fell apart at age 49, divorced, job loss, etc. that I fully confronted my feelings about being alone forever. Midlife has a way of making you think about such things. I then made the decision that my highest priority was to find true love for once in this lifetime. Damn the torpedoes!   Full speed ahead!   In fact, I even started my own dating service…

tell negative committee to shut upAs luck would have it, I met the love of my life tangentially through my dating service.

What you focus on DOES grow!

We have been together almost twelve years now, and I can honestly say I have never felt lonely in those twelve years. So glad I made the gigantic effort to stop judging everyone around me so harshly and accept the love and respect of one awesome man.

Learn more about our most recent adventure in southern Colorado!

How to Negotiate Love & Money

Love image

Differences in the way we handle and think about money often reflect major differences in the way we feel about ourselves.

dating-do-they-have-a-lot-of-moneyAs we all know, none better than Paul McCartney, money can’t buy you love. But on the other hand, love should not create a situation where you ignore your own financial future just because you’re so in love.

Case in point, when I met my new husband Mike through Match.com, I felt comfortable enough to tell him within just a couple hours of meeting, that I was good with money.  His response was, “Me too.” Useful information, but how do you really know?

After a few months, when I felt like our relationship had reached a certain level of trust and honesty, I brought all of my documentation on home ownership, retirement funds, etc. over to his house.  Surprise!

Even though we had both said we owned our homes and had significant retirement assets, I wanted to see it all in black and white. First we went to the county property records to make certain that our names really were on our properties. Then we brought out our retirement fund statements. I’ll show you mine, if you’ll show me yours!

As it turned out, we were both good with money, an essential element in our decision to team up for the long term. Being good with money, but not obsessed with it is an important trait to share with your significant other.

When Mike and I did marry, a tough financial decision came up for me. Could I share a checking account?  Even though I had been married before, I had never shared checking with anyone. But it slowly dawned on me, if I didn’t trust him enough to share checking, than why had I married him in the first place?

Financial infidelity is one of the primary causes of divorce today. I clearly recall times in my first marriage when I thought: “You’re not treating me fairly (either emotionally or financially), so I’m going to go spend money and not tell you about it.” This is a very bad sign in any relationship.  Don’t use money against each other. Either talk about the problems in the relationship, or move on if the differences truly are irreconcilable.

Differences in the way we handle and think about money often reflect major differences in the way we feel about ourselves. People who have a strong sense of self-esteem and self authority, also handle their financial future with respect. If you and your partner have synchronized feelings about money, chances are excellent that you are a good match in other areas.

But if your new friend has no respect for money, runs up lots of debt and has no intention of ever paying up, run the other way… Fast!!!

Don’t miss my new book about love and retirement!

You are always re-framing your life story

Spring buddha half sizeThere is no past, no future, there is only this moment.

One of the most important pieces of wisdom I wish I had had as a mere 20 or 30 year old, is the broader perspective that only aging can provide for us. Now I find that a recent brain injury has provided a similar educational opportunity.

We all know the “stories” of our lives. We all know the specific meanings we have assigned to certain life experiences. What we don’t always accept and acknowledge is that these meaning can and do change over time.

One of the life lessons I have re-learned from my recent concussion:

It may take a while, but life will always eventually make sense.

My metaphor for this learning is the time it sometimes takes for me to remember a certain word for a common object or activity. Of course it is frustrating to forget simple words and meanings, but I feel reassured that they will come through eventually, because they always do.

The on and off confusion created by my concussion is a daily reminder that all the stories we tell ourselves, all of the meanings we assign to particular events in our lives, are only temporary stops along the way. We are free at any time to re-frame their meaning, to change them to match our present state of mind and level of learning.

That is one of the beauties of life itself; nothing is static, everything is changing at every moment.

In these uncertain times, the Buddhist perspective reminds us:

To resist life’s inevitable impermanence is to suffer, and to accept change with compassion is to transcend suffering.

A Story of Love To Help You Believe Again!

Mr. Right frig magnetNo one could have been more surprised than I was when I met Mike…

Sure, I had started my own local dating service six months before, but I was also 49, divorced, and so disillusioned with love. A bad divorce can do that to you, but I found meeting so many cool divorcees encouraging.  Perhaps there was still hope for us all.

As a dating coach, the first challenge I faced was having too many women to match with my male clients. Men can be quite shy about admitting they need help in the romance department. I felt determined to find some great love matches for my women clients!

I decided to solve my inventory problem by putting my own very general profile on Match.com. I would use myself as bait online. Perhaps I would attract a few new male clients, and then tell them about the many great women I had for them to meet.

The first man to respond was called “Tall Guy” online. He was a stand-out because of his ready responsiveness, his genuine interest, and BTW, he looked pretty cute to me!

The “Tall Guy” came over to meet me on a Saturday afternoon.  Nosy me, I spied on him as he got out of his bright red pick-up, trying to decide whether to hide his big bouquet of flowers behind his back as he walked up to the door.

If you have ever had the supreme pleasure of experiencing love at first sight, then you know what happened next. Ten hours later we were still talking, laughing and feeling like heaven on earth. We both felt we had finally met someone we could naturally relate to on so many amazing levels.

I will never forget the euphoria we felt spending so much time together in the weeks after we first met. We had both waited a lifetime to feel this kind of intimate connection. We married exactly eight months later, and to this day we acknowledge exactly how fortunate we were to meet at just the right time. I mean, what are the chances?

 

Mike and Laura Lee just celebrated their 11th anniversary in a brand new home. A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado.  Laura Lee is also the author of How To Believe In Love Again: Opening to Forgiveness, Trust, and Your Own Inner Wisdom and Midlife Magic!

How can past relationships ruin your faith in finding new love?

The day I finally moved away from my ex-husband’s house, this Alison Krauss song kept running through my mind:

tell negative committee to shut up“I think I’ll take my foolish heart, my friend and head right for the door, there’ll be a better world awaiting if I do…I won’t be blue, with dreams that can’t come true.  I’ll take my heart, and head right for the door.”

Some of you may have arrived here by searching for information about knowing when to leave a relationship that isn’t right for you anymore.  When these words speak to you, it’s time to leave!

I kept a journal of the time after my own separation and divorce. Reading through it in the past few days, I was surprised that even years later I still felt depressed and damaged by staying so long in the wrong marriage. Fully two years after the divorce I wrote:

“The two beliefs I gained from spending too much time with [my ex] are: Men are all jerks, and no one would ever want to be with me because I’m too much trouble. I am flawed.”

I felt so angry because I had let him have so much influence over me, and how I felt about myself.

Going through a major break up is devastating, even if you have no love left for your ex. I spent a few years kicking myself for staying so long with such a jerk. Only then did I realize that he was moving on and it was high time for me to do the same. I needed to find a way to let go of all of the false assumptions I had gained by spending far too much time around him.

Finding self-love is the only solution to feeling flawed and unlovable. For me this required spending quite a bit of time alone, getting reacquainted with myself. Not the self that had stayed in a bad marriage too long, but the self that loved to walk her dogs along the river, watercolor, and remodel her home into a place she could love. The self that was strong and resilient and ready to find love and happiness again. I had to love myself into believing in love again.

Then I had to convince myself that all men were not jerks. My dating service worked well for this. I met and interviewed many men, a few of whom I really liked. I remember one day in the summer of 2004, when I interviewed three different men.  On the way home, a line from a James Taylor song came through loud and clear: “And my heart came back alive.”

Being around good friends convinced me to try again, and I’m so glad I did. Feeling loved and appreciated is an incredible gift worth working for.

Laura Lee has a new book out: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado. Go see!

How to Manage Couple Closeness

Mike and I after weddingThere are so many ways to manage “closeness” in couples. The most important part of the equation is to be sure to love and respect each other at all times. Don’t be the kind of couple who stays together forever only because you are afraid to be alone. I know from personal experience, the loneliest I have ever felt was being in the wrong relationship or marriage.

Mike and I met at age 50. By that time both of us were pretty clear on who we were, and who we wanted to spend our time with. We found spending time together was easier than with anyone else we had ever met before, but we also had very different interests and approaches to life. He loves a good project that includes making and fixing things, especially electronic or motorized things. I enjoy the world of creativity with words, writing, editing, photography and publishing.

people are made to be lovedIn psychology, this is called “differentiation.”  Differentiation is how susceptible your ‘self’ is to group pressure. The less susceptible to the pressure of others, the higher your differentiation level. A high level of differentiation means a strong sense of who you are, separate from others.  The process of holding onto your sense of self in an intense emotional relationship is what develops your sense of differentiation. That is healthy togetherness.

Luckily, because Mike and I had each lived alone for years before we met, we had each developed a strong sense of self. We had little “fear of disappearing into a relationship.” That is not to say that we didn’t struggle at times with maintaining strong, separate selves.

I believe too much closeness or neediness for attention from others is a real buzz kill, especially early in a relationship. When one partner needs a lot more support than the other, the relationship is unbalanced. The needy partner needs to work on their codependency issues and develop a healthy sense of self by finding a good counselor. I found a counselor in my thirties who helped me love and accept myself wholeheartedly through re-parenting therapy. I know from experience that this will take some serious soul surgery, but it can always be done.

I don’t know where I first heard this saying, but it works for me when it comes to healthy self development:

First have the strength to meet self, then have the strength to let go of self.

 Our psychological task as young people is to learn to appreciate who we are, separate from everyone else in this world. As adults, it can be quite beneficial to eventually learn how to let go of self or ego, no longer needing to impress others with who we are.

Self love and acceptance is the BEST GIFT you can give yourself!